Pomegranate, What's Old is New Again
At one point in time, before synthetic flavours became all the rage, grenadine was made with real, fresh, pomegranate juice. If you’ve tasted modern commercial grenadine, it tastes more like super sweet vanilla / almond extract. I can almost guarantee that there are no “natural” vanilla flavours in the commercial grenadine. Basically, there is no real comparison in flavour between the two, unless you are like Homer Simpson and think red is a flavour. Actually, he thinks purple is a flavour, but you get the point. Now I’m seeing new promotional material for pomegranate flavour liqueurs and pomegranate flavour vodka. So, is this the second coming of this age old ingredient? Will artificial grenadine syrup start to play second fiddle to real pomegranate syrup?
So what is really driving this renewed interest in pomegranate? Well it is because this old/new ingredient is a buzzword compliant “super food.” It has antioxidants, anti-aging properties and supports cardiovascular health. Natural fruits all contain these benefits, but it seems a few studies indicate that pomegranate has more potential than other fruits. So, basically a few scientific studies are driving the market for pomegranate based products. This has led to a growth in the market, including the spirit industry, for products to ride the hype.
Recently a product called Pama Pomegranate Liqueur was released onto the market and it claims to be the first pomegranate flavoured liqueur with 17% alcohol. The bottle is quite nice and it looks like they spent a good chunk of change on their image, but what’s cruel is this stuff is priced at $39.80 CDN ($24.99 US). Basically, this liqueur is for suckers! Why would you pay that amount of money for a product that’s a simple liqueur? Sure, the packaging is nice but the reality is that it is just pomegranate juice and ethanol with some other stuff I’m sure.
There are other products like Pearl Persephone Vodka which is just flavour with pomegranate and doesn’t contain any of the health benefits (i.e. the red colour) and uphoria pomegranate which is similar to Pama, at half the price though. But these products are still riding the super-food hype. Also there is POM Wonderful with is 100% pomegranite juice, which you can but for a few bucks. That’s my personal preference because when I guest orders a Pomtini I can make it with out charging them for an overly expensive liqueur. Also, natural pomegranite juice works in other cocktails and maintains a reasonable cocktail price.
So now that pomegranite is all the rage, will it make its way into the grenadine syrup industry? There are hints that this is happening, but will it work? People who are habituated to artificial grenadine may notice a flavor shift and may, or may not, like it. Bars that are focusing on the bottom line will not like the price increase of natural grenadine syrup and will probably stick to artificial syrup, because of the status quo. I’m personally in favour of going back to all natural ingredients and ditching the artificial flavours. But I suspect it will take many, many years to accomplish this. But at least there are some reasons to change that are getting some attention, other than flavour.
On a side note I wonder if synthetic flavours are becoming the norm? Most people associated flavours with what they know, and a perfect example of this is the day a guest at a bar asked for a strawberry daiquiri. No problem, that’s my motto, so I took three large strawberries, some rum and some lime juiced, did a quick blend with a stick blender and fine stained into a sugar rimmed cocktail glass. When I asked the server how the lady like the drink, the response was: “Tell your bartender he doesn’t know how to make a decent drink.” Ouch, that hurt, but then I gave it some thought and realized she probably wanted a candy concoction made with synthetic strawberry syrup, in a tall glass with cheap rum and no lime. Have you ever tried the artificial strawberry syrup straight? It burns your throat when you take a spoonful of it straight! Hell, Jack Daniels is smoother. But if a person is first exposed to this, then that is what they know. The only problem is taking a bold drink, like the daiquiri, that was originally lots of rum, lime and a little bit of sugar and using the name to indicate a wussy drink that is super sweet and slushy.
Benefits of Pomegranite Juice
1. Five studies demonstrate beneficial effect of pomegranate juice on cardiovascular health
2. Clinical Nutrition, suggested that drinking a glass of pomegranate juice a day for one year reduced blood pressure